Source: Martha Stewart Living, December 2001
For Jewish children, the dreidel game has long been a favorite part of the Hanukkah celebration. The dreidel, a four-sided top, has a Hebrew letter on each of its sides -- nun, gimmel, hey, and shin, the first letters of the Hebrew words meaning "A great miracle happened there." The Hebrew letters on the dreidel later came to stand for different words in Yiddish, a dialect spoken by Jews in Europe and Russia; in the rules of the game, these Yiddish words correspond to the outcome of each spin of the dreidel.
Rules for Playing Dreidel
1. Each player receives a set amount of gelt (chocolate coins covered in foil) or real coins.
2. Before each spin of the dreidel, the players put a fixed amount of their gelt in the pot, or kupah.
3. Each player takes a turn spinning the dreidel.
4. When the dreidel falls, the letter displayed on top determines the action of the player (the Yiddish words are given here with their translations):
Nicht (nothing): Move on to the next player.
Gut (good): Take all the gelt in the kupah.
Halb (half): Take half the gelt from the kupah.
Schlecht (bad): The player loses all the gelt he or she deposited into the kupah.
5. A player who loses all of his or her gelt is out of the game.
6. The game continues until there is no more gelt in the kupah.
7. The player with the most gelt wins.